Cooking Interest Center in Preschool

But wait.....we don't have access to an oven!?!!

Cooking with children in preschool does not always mean using the oven! I've listed recipes at the bottom of this page that do not require an oven, stove or microwave to get you started!

Having a preschool cooking interest center is a great way to incorporate this!

Preschool Cooking Interest Center

What IS a Cooking Interest Center?

Typically, this Interest Center is a portable center that set up on a day you are preparing food with the children rather than having it available daily as a children’s choice. It is not a center that is necessarily used every day!

What Do Children Learn From Cooking?

Preschool children will:

  • Develop socio-emotional skills by working together in small groups and taking turns mixing.
  • Improve their self-help skills by preparing and serving their own snacks.
  • Learn about nutrition and food choices.
  • Develop small motor control and coordination (as they mix and pour and scoop), eye-hand coordination (by pouring, cracking eggs, measuring).
  • Develop math skills by measuring, counting number of teaspoons of an ingredient, etc.)
  • Develop a great sense of pride because they “made it themselves”! You can also increase pride in their culture by incorporating family recipes).
Preschool Cooking Interest Center

What supplies should be in a Cooking Interest Center?

To stock this interest center, have the following items available:

Plastic measuring spoons, cups, water pitchers and several plastic mixing bowls.

Wooden and plastic mixing spoons; cookie cutters, baking sheets, muffin tins, cake pans; pastry brushes; graters; plastic manual juicer; vegetable peelers; funnels, wire whisks, egg beaters; tongs; spatulas, colander/strainers; knives (plastic for the children and sharp ones for you to use that are stored out of reach of the children); can openers; scissors; cutting boards; got plates or trivets; potholders; smocks or aprons; towels and sponges for clean up.

Store these items in a large, covered bin and label it Classroom Food Prep Supplies.

*****IMPORTANT***** Please Read!

It is important, for allergy reasons, to use ONLY these bowls and items when preparing food with children if any of your children have allergies. The item your student is allergic to may have been used in a bowl you use from home. This is called Cross Contamination.

Example: You make peanut butter fudge or cookies with almond extract at home. You have washed the wooden spoon that you used and know it is clean. You use that spoon in the classroom to mix fruit with the children.

That spoon may still have traces of the peanut butter or almond extract on or in it. If your student has a peanut allergy or a tree nut allergy, they may have a severe allergic reaction because of the trace amount of the allergen (peanut or almond) that is on the spoon.

Cross Contamination causes many allergic reactions in preschool.

DO NOT TAKE CHANCES if you have children with allergies in your classroom. Provide a set of new items listed above to be used for ALL preschool food activities and avoid having to make a 9-1-1 call.

For more information and free downloadable posters and information about 
Allergies in the preschool


How should the teacher prepare for a cooking activity?

You can use your Cooking Center at one of your everyday tables that you have designated for Art or Math/Manipulatives.

For more information on how and where to set up your interest centers in your classroom: 
Click here to go to the CLASSROOM DESIGN page

Preschool Cooking Interest Center

1. Choose food activities that are nutritious and that the children can help make, not just watch you make!

2. ALWAYS check for children’s allergies or family food choices when choosing the activity.

For example, you may have children who are vegetarians. This means that you CAN use eggs because traditional vegetarians do eat animal BY-products, just not products made FROM animal parts.

This means you could not use Jell-O or gelatin in any recipes because it is an animal product. If in doubt, simply talk to the family! We had a child with allergies one year and asked the parent to approve the items before the activity by reading the ingredient list.

This parent also offered to purchase any items we needed to cook!

3. Have the utensils and items you need available before starting the activity. You don’t want to run back and forth for utensils. You will lose the children’s interest!

4. Have all the ingredients you need available!

5. If possible, make rebus directions for the activity. These directions would have, for example, a picture of a teaspoon on a card and the words “1 teaspoon” underneath the picture. The children gain pre-reading skills this way and can independently make their own item!

6. Be prepared for a mess and be prepared for the children to help clean up the mess!

Spills happen and learning to help clean up is a great self-help skill!

7. Have fun!

Book Recommendation:

(I LOVE Amazon, and some of the links below will take you to the Amazon website.  If you do choose to purchase yours through Amazon, they do send me a few cents--which supports my coffee habit! )

One resource I simply could not do with out is The Creative Curriculum for Preschool by Diane Trister Dodge.
I believe every classroom should have one! If your program does not have a copy, check your local library or bookstore, or CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT IT.

It is a wealth of information on interest centers and could not be more developmentally appropriate!

Some Cooking Recipes to Get You Started

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Crackers

Ingredients and materials needed:

Crackers Low or non-fat cream cheese Strawberries Plastic Knives

1. Allow the cream cheese to sit out for about 10 minutes to soften (the cream cheese in the tub is more "spread-able" than the square of it!).

2. Have the children slice the strawberries.

3. Children spread cream cheese on crackers and then place strawberries on top!

Fruit Salad

Of course, fruit salad is always fun to make and a great way to encourage the children to try new fruits!

Ingredients and materials needed: Plastic knives, vegetable peeler (for you to use!), a large bowl and small serving bowls, large serving spoon, and of course a wide variety of fruits!

Some favorites to try are: banana, kiwi, strawberry, apples, oranges (and mandarin oranges), raisins, blueberries, and any others you'd like to try with the kids!

This is usually a 2 step project in preschool!

The first step: Let the children investigate all the fruits! As they investigate, the teacher prepares the fruit (peeling oranges and apples and kiwi). It's great for the children to see the whole process!

As each fruit is ready for cutting, give each child one of each to cut with their knife. They should put their cut fruit into the large bowl.

The second step: At snack time, serve the fruit salad "family style". Pass out the small serving bowls. Pass the large bowl of fruit from child to child with the serving spoon. They should take one scoop. You most likely will hear "I don't like __________(fill in the name of a fruit)! I usually tell them, "We'll all take one scoop. Then we can all at least try each kind of fruit. If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it! It's O.K.!". Some children will try everything, some will not!

EXTENSION: In advance, prepare a chart that has the names of each fruit across the top row (with a picture or drawing of each next to it so the children can "read" it as well). The list each child's name down the left hand side in a column.

Encourage them to try each fruit--you may have to try each one first! "I'm going to try some Kiwi...mmmm..I like Kiwi. I'm going to put the word YES next to my name under Kiwi! Did anyone else try the Kiwi? Did you like it?".  

Who knew fruit salad could be so much fun?!

Vegetables and Dip

Try test-tasting vegetables that the kids have prepared!

You'll need cherry or grape tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli, red and orange peppers and cucumbers (add any others that you'd like to try with the kids!) and some low or non-fat ranch dressing.

Rinse the vegetables with the children. Have them try to cut what they can (peppers, cucumbers and the tomatoes) and break off pieces of broccoli.

They place it into a large bowl.

Serve it as listed above under Fruit Salad and make a taste-testing chart for this as well!

Preschool Cooking Interest Center


Do you have an air-popper? The kids just LOVE watching the popcorn pop out of this! We sing songs while we wait for it to come out!

After it is popped, spritz the popcorn with some cooking spray (Like Pam or Olive Oil spray)--very little is needed-- and sprinkle some parmesan cheese on it and then mix! It is a favorite at our house!

Trail Mix

This is a great measuring activity.

You'll need: Bowls for each snack food and a scoop; plastic baggies or bowls for each child.

Provide a variety of snack foods in separate bowls each with its own scoop (such as a 1/4 cup measuring scoop or spoons). Some ideas for snack foods are: raisins, Chex cereal, cheerios, min-chocolate chips, pretzels (either the small thin ones or the mini-pretzels).

We spritz this with cooking spray (olive oil spray) and sprinkle on parmesan cheese (OK, OK! So I'm a cheese nut!). Some people spritz and cheese it and then bake it as well.

Well, that should be enough to get you started!

And MORE NON-COOK recipes are in this book!

Cooking Is Cool:  Heat Free Recipes for Kids To Cook----This book is AMAZING!  It is written FOR teachers BY a teacher!  


More Pages You May Like:

Go to my main Interest Center Page to learn about MORE Interest Center Ideas for your classroom!

Go to Preschool Plan It's Home Page

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